His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
A review by Alan Vaughn
In His Majesty’s Dragon, Novik offers us a fully realized world that closely resembles our own. Set in the early part of the 19th century while Europe was being ravaged by almost incessant warfare during the Napoleonic Wars, Novik’s “Temeraire” novels exist within the same timeframe and closely resembles a historical novel, except for the dragons. This fantasy novel offers a fresh perspective on those perennial fantasy favorites: Dragons. As a lifelong reader of fantasy I have always loved the stories that involved dragons. Whether they were cruel misers hoarding their treasure of gold and gems or charismatic ancients full of knowledge and power; dragons have long held our interest and fascination. Novik draws on the rich tradition of dragonlore while venturing into new territory. Her dragons are pivotal characters who are more than just animals and are instead intelligent, empathic beings with distinct personalities. Forming grand Aerial Corps, these dragons fight alongside humans and often present a pivotal balance of power that can make or break a battle.
Our introduction to world of Great Britain’s Aerial Corps occurs alongside that of Will Laurence who finds himself thrust from his battle command aboard a ship into the Aerial Corp with his new companion Temeraire, a dragon whose egg Laurence’s crew seizes from a French vessel. As Laurence travels with Temeraire away from the rigid structures of the Navy, he undergoes a crash course in a totally different way of life. One much more flexible than his experiences in the Navy have prepared him for but there is little time for mistakes as Napoleon’s war machine gears up for a possible invasion of the British home islands. While at times Laurence comes across as a bit tightly wound and beholden to the ideals of duty, loyalty, and sacrifice it is entertaining to see how he has to adapt to this new life he finds himself in. Though, for me the true pleasure was in following the development of Temeraire’s character as he learns about the new role he finds himself in and the world at large. This becomes a central theme of the entire series as we find out that Temeraire is somewhat different from normal run of dragons. Both as a result of Laurence own unorthodox methods of rearing Temeraire and his own inclinations. Indeed, Temeraire’s evolving morals sets up a conflict between his own lofty ideals and the harsh reality of life for war dragons in Europe that plays out later in the series. I would recommend this books for fans of “Lady Trent’s Memoirs” by Marie Brennan or the “Dragonriders of Pern” by McCaffrey.
His Majesty’s Dragon and all the other books in the “Temeraire” series are available in ebook format from Cloud Library.